Light Offerings

How can we use our tech to enhance subject specific thinking skills?

Posted by jturner56 on May 29, 2016

How can we use our tech to enhance subject specific thinking skills?
A question recently posed to me by a respected Principal.

Apart from the ongoing question as to why is this still a general question, and what is meant by ‘enhance’ and ‘subject skills’ it helped focus on what is a suitable response answer. The following is what I provided:

  • Primarily and epistemological question. So many subjective terms. If talking ‘improved grades’ questionable. I see it more about the relationship between
    •  meaning (relationship between personal and formal systemic)
    • knowledge (relationship between closed and open)
    • expression (domains of valued expression)
    • empowerment (how well do we develop student as independent, connected learners?)
    • social learning (strength of connections)
    • communities of practice (strength of leadership)
  •  But if talking digital value, it has been recognised that the computer as a tool to think with can add value (‘enhance’?)
    • through making meaning
      for example, through students creating multimedia products to demonstrate understanding (such as games), but also through media constructions such as presentations and movies
    • or for modeling learning
      from Spreadsheet what ifs to programmed models
    • personalising pathways
      such as using Khan academy or Mathletics in conjunction with f2f
    • interacting with wider feedback audiences
      such as blogging (provided their is constructive feedback)
    • enhancing skills now valued more so (such as “21C Skills”)
      which includes Technicak Literacy through 1:1 and Collaboration through GoogleDocs
    • digital information handling
      one of the Digital Literacy pillars and a pillar of IB PYP/MYP Inquiry
    • for visualising thinking and learning
      once again blogging, but also mind-mapping, redrafting…..
    • building meta-cognitive understanding (thinking about thinking)
      through the personal cognitive feedback loops created by human-digital interactions

Would recommend work by David Jonassen as best to better understand. His (2006) Modelling with technology: mindtools for conceptual change  and Meaningful Learning With Technology, by D. Jonassen, J. Howland, R.M. Marra, D. Crismond, 2008 support this.

Skills separated from context is so last century. Also danger of container checklists. Not saying not important, but as people are abrogating more of their memory to digital (do we need times tables when we can use a calculator in our phone. What about long division?) I say yes to the former, debatable for the latter.

Schools, though, need to be stronger and clearer in their advocacy.

Digital can help build bridges. But if allowed to be treated as optional add on, value will continue to be debated. It then becomes a leadership issue.

Critical then is what is provided within a school’s vision and planning.

What sayeth ye?

Postscript: I find it of interest in this week’s reading that

  1. teaching programming continues to be approached in wrong ways (Idit Harel goes was back in this)
  2. students continue to be frustrated by teacher ineffectiveness with using digital as part of school education
  3. the ongoing debate about what to do as digital changes memory approaches
  4. that teachers continue to have to try and come to grips with the changing nature of digital on learning. In this case digital v page when it comes to reading and writing.

It’s a complex challenge, but one needed to be met if we are to continue to have hope in schools helping our young prepare for a better world.



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